Crowdsourcing and Social Media in Cultural Heritage Studies

Course Description: 

The course offers an introduction into the use of crowdsourcing and social media when implementing cultural heritage projects, with a special focus on engaging the public in the design, conduct, and dissemination of research.

Crowdsourcing – also known as citizen science – is becoming more and more common in the humanities as a tool for processing vast amounts of data. Members of the broader public have been involved into the collection, digitization, transcription, and description of heritage within crowdsourcing projects run by various cultural heritage organizations – galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM). However, it is more than just a framework for creating content. It allows to create a community of interested individuals who are ready to work towards a specific aim.

Across industries, including the fields related to cultural heritage, social media is turning from a “nice to have” to a significant component of business strategy. Cultural heritage organizations increasingly recognize the power of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube in reaching and broadening their audience. Engaging the public with the help of these tools benefits both the audience and the organizations. The audience has easy access to the collections and knowledge and they can learn through direct engagement with the help of interactive, collaborative digital tools. For cultural organizations, social media is an efficient way to present their work and exhibits and to involve the audience into the formation and curation of the collections.

Based on the analysis of case studies (projects), this “hands-on” course will combine theory and practice to develop skills in performing crowdsourcing in the field of cultural heritage. It will go through the steps of utilizing social media in the field of cultural heritage studies and humanities: how to formulate the idea, how to choose the digital platform, how to identify micro-tasks for the crowd, how to motivate the volunteers, and how to utilize the collected/processed materials. As the main assignment, students will create their own crowdsourcing project on the Zooniverse platform.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students completing this course will:
- learn the basics of what efficient crowdsourcing and social media are and how they can be used in the fields of cultural heritage studies, humanities, and social sciences;
- learn how to formulate the idea of a crowdsourcing project, how to identify micro-tasks for the crowd, how to define clear and convincing aim and tasks of the project;
- learn about various digital platforms for crowdsourcing projects and how to choose the most suitable for their own project;
- gain hands-on experience with digital tools and techniques used by scholars in the field of humanities and social sciences such as Zooniverse;
- learn to create an effective social media content strategy.


60% of the grade will come from the students’ participation in the class such as presenting a crowdsourcing case study analysis, interviewing a crowdsourcing project volunteer, and participation in discussions. 40% of final grade will come from the final project created on Zooniverse.


The course is designed for students specializing in / doing cultural heritage studies as well as in public policy and the humanities in general. A familiarity with the basics of social media is expected, but this course assumes no special IT knowledge.